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Women’s empowerment and gender equality

On 3 March, the Standing Committee unanimously adopted a resolution based on the report prepared by ALDE vice-chairperson Petra Stienen “Innovative approaches to sexual and reproductive health and rights”.

The right to make informed choices about reproductive rights and reproductive health is the central idea of the report. “A vote for this resolution is a vote for a cultural shift,” underlined Petra Stienen in her introductory remarks.

“The main aim of this report is to identify innovative approaches to sexual and reproductive health and rights: in science and technology, design, communication, education. More generally the report advocates for a change of mentality: sexual reproductive health and rights is about much more than only warning about unwanted pregnancies, sexual transmitted diseases or access to legal and safe abortion”

The report promotes evidence-based research, comprehensive education, accessible and innovative healthcare, and new communication on sexual and reproductive health and rights as the basis of public policy. The report proposes to raise awareness of co-responsibility of women and men in matters of fertility. The development of new male contraceptive methods would not only alleviate the burden of contraception on women but would also give men reproductive autonomy.  The report introduces the concept of reproductive coercion and proposes to prevent and counter behaviour that interferes with a person’s reproductive autonomy. The report also proposes to approach the issue of abortion as a necessary part of healthcare, shifting the focus from “choice” to “needs”, from “rights” to “healthcare”, and from “judgement” to “empathy and compassion”. Finally, the report advocates for a shift in cultural attitudes and opens a debate on “the right to sexual well-being and pleasure".

“Sexual and reproductive health and rights are the rights related to planning one’s own family, the ability to have a satisfying and safe sex life, and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to have children. These rights are particularly relevant to women’s empowerment and gender equality. Lacking or insufficient access to sexual and reproductive healthcare affects women first and foremost: the consequences of inadequate care, which include unwanted pregnancies and health risks when abortion is denied, are largely borne by them. Nevertheless, sexual and reproductive health and rights concern every individual, irrespective of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, or their age,” states the rapporteur.

Petra Stienen also led a public debate on “Gender-based violence: men are a part of the problem but must also be part of the solution” which featured Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe Bjorn Berge, President of PACE Tiny Kox, Director of Social Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands Pascalle Grotenhuis, PACE General Rapporteur on Violence against Women Even Eriksen, and representatives of civil society projects aimed at preventing gender based violence.

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